Wildfires are getting more extreme and burning more land. The UN says it's time to 'learn to live with fire'

Smoke rises from a forest fire outside the village of Berdigestyakh, in the republic of Sakha, Siberia, in July 2021. UN researchers are encouraging policymakers to reframe how they think about wildfires, switching "from reactive to proactive."

(CNN)Wildfires have intensified around the globe, providing a stark reminder of how the climate crisis is upending lives and inflicting billions of dollars a year in damage. And it will only get worse, according to dozens of global fire experts.

A report released Wednesday by the UN Environment Programme suggests it's time we "learn to live with fire" and adapt to the uptick in the frequency and severity of wildfires that will inevitably put more lives and economies in harm's way.
The number of extreme wildfire events will increase up to 14% by 2030, according to the report's analysis. By 2050, the increase will climb to 30%.
    Even with the most ambitious efforts to slash heat-trapping emissions, the report shows that those near-term consequences are locked in.
      Although the situation is dire and that eliminating wildfire risks is impossible, communities can still reduce their risk and exposure, said Andrew Sullivan, principal research officer with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and editor of the report.
      "Uncontrollable and devastating wildfires are becoming an expected part of the seasonal calendars in many parts of the world," Sullivan said at a Monday news conference. "Where wildfires have historically occurred, they may increase; however, where wildfires have not historically occurred, they may become more common."
      A large bushfire is seen from Bargo, Australia, southwest of Sydney in December 2019. A state of emergency was declared in Australia's most populated region that month as an unprecedented heatwave fanned out-of-control bushfires, destroying homes and smothering huge areas with a toxic smoke.
      Wildfires affect every aspect of society including public health, livelihoods, biodiversity and the already changing climate. UNEP researchers, including over 50 experts from universities, government agencies and international organizations around the world, say the report serves as a "roadmap" for adapting to a burning world.

        The changing pattern of wildfires

        Fires have always served a vital ecological purpose on Earth, essential for many ecosystems. They restore the soil's nutrients, helping germinate plants and remove decaying matter. Without fires, overgrown foliage like grasses and shrubs can prime the landscape for worse flare-ups, particularly during extreme drought and heat waves.
        Burning parts of the land on purpose has historically prevented larger, more destructive fires. Indigenous people have been applying this preventative method, known as controlled or prescribed burns, for thousands of years.
        A firefighter battles flames during the Creek fire in the Cascadel Woods area of unincorporated Madera County, California, in  September 2020.